Monday, September 29, 2008


I don't send out Rosh HaShanah cards. Probably because I'm a bit lazy and probably because even if I wanted to, it would require a different investment in time related to collecting addresses. And before that, figuring out whose addresses I needed, and finding cards, and finding stamps, and....

Today and yesterday my e-mail inbox has been filled with both generic and personal greetings for a happy and healthy new year the majority of which have been the former rather than the latter. I got an e-card from the president of El Al airlines and another from an international student organization (both generic, no surprise).

I got a video greeting posted to my Facebook page from someone I'm rarely in touch with. I appreciate the sentiment but really, I don't need to see your 4 year old spilling honey all over themselves and trying to say Happy Rosh HaShanah all at the same time. Call my cynical, but really, it's not as cute as the parents think it is.

I got e-mail wishes from people I don't know but evidently should have by all of the other people they cc'd. And if I'm not mistaken, I think I even got a Rosh HaShanah e-mail from a Nigerian prince.

I got an e-card from a friend and presumably his wife, though I've never met her. The email included a picture of (their?) dog with an apple. So then I had to figure out whether the name I thought was his wife's may actually be that of his dog. (I have not decided, in case you are wondering.)

It's too much work. I would much rather assume that every one is wishing everyone a happy, healthy New Year and if they aren't, that's when they should e-mail me!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Milwaukee Brewers

Today, the Milwaukee Brewers won a place in the play-offs. Ronnie called to tell me and said that the last time this happened was in 1982. I remember that year well. The Cardinals won the World Series, and, as Ronnie thoughtfully pointed out, it was the year we started going out (the first time).

Just a few minutes later, I was back in the car and listening to whatever was on NPR and they mentioned that the baseball season came down to the wire. The Mets lost and the Brewers won and that meant the Brewers were in the playoffs for the first time in 26 years.

Now, remember that I was driving. Thankfully I was on a side street and could pull over abruptly. How can 1982 be 26 years ago? That cannot be. It's a physical impossibiity. 26 years is a really long time, and while it's fine for the interval between play-off runs (I know it's not, if you're a Brewer's fan, but I'm thinking existentially here), it's not for the length of time for any other number of things, including 1982.

I refuse to believe that 1982 and 26 years ago can occupy the same temporal space. Being a fan of science fiction (or speculative fiction, if you prefer), I know that 1982 does not always have to be 26 years ago. In other dimensions, 1982 could be last year, or even yesterday. And as long as we're speculating, it could be next week. In fact, I'm sure of it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Walking through the Neighborhood

I was asked to help with a literature drop today for a paid sick leave initiative in Milwaukee. We walked a few miles of a very low-income area, dropping off flyers and meeting anyone else who was outside.

First, we had to figure out how we wanted to hit both of these streets. One idea was that we would each take every other house. But to me, that's twice as much walking to cover both sides of both streets. I suggested that we each take a side of the street, and whoever finished the block first circled around to help the other person.

It wasn't the distance we walked that was difficult, it was the stairs up to the front doors of all of these houses! And by my guess, very few of them would meet any kind of inspection standards. The first house I walked up to had concrete steps before the wooden ones up to the house. A piece of concrete was loose and as I picked my foot up to go to the next stair, a big chunk of concrete came out of their staircase! I was pretty happy there was no one sitting on the porch!

The neighborhood itself was interesting. Most of the homes looked like wood-framed homes, and then there were some incredible old brick homes. I couldn't figure out which came first. Presumably the brick, but they were so far away from each other that they couldn't have been the original homes there. Probably 75% of the houses were duplexes (which sometimes means two sets of stairs for one house!).

And then every so often was a brand new house that would have been at home in any new suburb. There were two or three boarded up homes on each block. Or if not boarded up, then just abandoned-looking. And there were houses that had their fronts on what appeared to be alleys. That was unexpected. And so were the brand new townhouses.

And today was evidently the day to be passing things out. We saw a few other teams of people passing out information about free clothing and food (but only if you go to the 1pm service at their church) and something else that was about a children's health center. There were also guys trying to drum up voter registration at the gas station we passed.

A few things I couldn't figure out:
  • Some houses that otherwise looked relatively nice also had lots of garbage floating around their front yards. Not just a cup that had drifted from somewhere else, but a lot of stray bags, wrappers, cups, and cans. I don't get that.
  • There were a fair number of people sitting in their cars listening to the radio. That was a definite mystery. First, it was a pretty hot day out. And of all the cars I saw with people in them - not one was running the airconditioning. In fact, they all had open windows, which I know because I handed them literature. And I didn't get the sense that they were waiting to pick people up. Maybe they don't have a radio in their house? No clue on that one!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Too Much Coffee?

I wasn't sure it was possible until today, and I'm still not convinced. But really, I think it's just maybe possible that I've had too much coffee today.

I probably wouldn't have gone out at all this morning except that I left my jacket at Einstein's yesterday. So I had to go back today. Yes, a rational person might say that I could have simply picked up my jacket and not also had two large coffees (free refills), but it was 6:30am and if I were already rational at that hour I wouldn't want the coffee!

And then I had a 10am meeting at a different coffeeshop. And it's a place with really good coffee. And it was. Two more larges for me (more free refills)!

And then I had a 2pm meeting at yet a third coffee shop, and they have the greatest ice coffee in town.

And now, I think I've had enough. I think.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Red Pill or the Green Pill

Ok, that's not the actual quote from that classic Matrix scene, but it may as well be. Nyquil is green. Dayquil is red. Both are magic, just like in the Matrix. Well, not just like in the Matrix, but the point is that all the pills are magical.

[And now the dilemma - do I name names? I think the answer is yes.]

Last week, I stayed with Toby. [I was going to write "my friend, Toby", but I decided that if that's not the case after this post that I would hate to go back and have to delete those words.]

Toby wasn't feeling well. I'm pretty sure that like most people I know, that's a euphemism for "I want to take Nyquil and get a good night's sleep no matter what's really making me not feel well". So Toby went out to get Nyquil. [It's also possible that she went out to get Dayquil and not Nyquil but somehow the story works better the other way.] So she went to the drugstore, got some Nyquil and lo and behold, there was a special box that also included Dayquil. That's essentially 24-hour Quil. And somewhere in the universe, Quil is another name for crack. [note: if you're offended by 4-letter words, don't click on that last link.]

Night one: green pill. Things are good.

Day one: red pill. Things are good.

Night two: another green pill. things are good.

Day two: another pill. Things are not good. Toby is feeling okay, but is dead tired. Now this isn't so surprising since she just moved and has been packing and now unpacking boxes for days. But it's weird that it would all catch up with her even after a good night's sleep.

Night three: there's a green pill missing.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two Kinds of People

I've rediscovered that there are two type of people in the world.

The people who "get" it. And the people who don't.

And here's the thing - when speaking to them at a conference, say, presenting on a panel, it just doesn't matter what you say. You don't really need to be speaking to the people who already "get" it, and it's a waste of time to speak to the ones who don't.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Still Full....

I went to lunch around 1pm today. It's 8:30pm and I'm still full. I guess you could say I got my money's worth since I didn't have to eat dinner, but really, this has gone on too long! Needless to say, the food was good but I'm fairly certain that I shouldn't go back anytime soon (given how much I ate!).

Here's the thing -I don't go out during the day so often since I work at home. That means I don't always pay attention to whether my clothes match in the morning. And at some point I reconciled myself to the fact that the people at the coffeeshop don't really care what I'm wearing at 6:30am. (And no, contrary to popular belief I do not work in my pajamas!)

So when I left the restaurant this afternoon, I realized I was wearing a pink striped shirt, brown pants and green crocs. And brown socks. So at least my socks and pants matched, that's gotta count for something. Had I looked at myself before lunch, I probably would have worn pink crocs so that the shirt would match something too.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Don't do this Icebreaker

I went to a workshop today on Classroom Management. It was sponsored by the local board of Jewish education and was run by a well-known educator in town who also teaches graduate level courses in education at one of the local universities.

She introduced the session and asked us each to go around and introduce ourselves. And then she added, "And I'd like you to also tell the group what kind of fruit you're most like and why". NOT what fruit we like, but what fruit we are like. Seriously? This is like Barbara Walters asking Katherine Hepburn what kind of tree she would be.

It's one thing to do this in a group of people who know each other, and even then, it's a dumb ice breaker.

Two people said apples and two others said pomegranates. Someone said blueberries and then spent too much time telling us that they are good for you and that teaching is about passing along things to the students that are good for them. I really didn't need to know her that well. One person said persimmon, and there was a pear, and an orange. Just to be ornery, someone chose a tomato. The teacher described herself as a pineapple. Lovely. No one said a fruit with a pit, maybe because they were afraid others might interpret their choice to mean they really have a heart of stone. I was disappointed that no one chose coconuts or a durian. At least that would have been interesting.

As for me, I said a banana for no particular reason other than there was one in my bag.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yet Another Coffee Shop

Today I met someone for coffee late in the afternoon. We went to a locally-owned coffee chain called Alterra. Their coffee is roasted right on the premises and it always smells great there. It was a gorgeous day out so we sat outside.

Let me just say that the people there are not like the people at Panera. It's in a completely different neighborhood (Riverwest), so that's not surprising, but still, I was surprised.

The woman sitting at the table next to us was wearing what appeared to be a men's herringbone pattern polo-style shirt with baggy striped cotton pants (but not like prison pants!). She was reading a book about Black Sexual Politics and taking copious notes. Across from us, a man with long curly hair had on capri jeans, a nice shirt, and a little furry dog was sitting on his lap. I believe it was the first time I've seen a man wear denim capris. And yes, before you ask, I'm sure it was a man. Behind us was a guy with jeans, a white t-shirt and a mohawk. A mohawk? Yes, a mohawk.

Finally, I said to my coffee companion, "Wow, I haven't seen a mohawk in a really long time". the response, "We're not cool enough to be sitting here." Probably true, but nonetheless depressing!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


My friend and avid Lentil Bowl reader, Dennis, today bemoaned the fact that there is a waiting room at Penn Station in NY for riders of Amtrak's Acela train. It is easy to see that the waiting area is always empty. And there is no waiting room for anyone (read: commoners) riding the regular regional Amtrak trains. It's as if the Acela waiting room is there merely to taunt other riders and not actually to be used.

I suggested that if someone is taking the regional train they'll be sitting for quite a long ride and since the Acela folks have less time to sit on the train (it's a much faster train) Amtrak is merely offering them more total butt time by giving them a waiting room!

As a result of this suggestion, I was accused of being a shill for Amtrak. Of all people, me? A shill? For Amtrak? Dennis, surely you jest!

I will be taking the Acela next week to a conference (paid for by the sponsors of the conference, not my employer!) and I promised Dennis that I would get into that waiting room and test out as many seats as possible before my train. That seems fair, right?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

We Jews are SO not Baptist!

Yes, I'm stating the obvious.

But really, tonight it could not have been made more clear. I went to a press conference for the Milwaukee Opportunities for Restoring Employment (MORE) ordinance. They already have the committed support of four alderman and need 10 in order to have a veto-proof vote. The ordinance would require any development project in the city, subsidized by more than $1 million dollars of city tax payers’ money, to hire at least 30% of its needed workforce from residents of the city.

The press conference was held in the basement of the New Hope Baptist Church, a predominantly (maybe completely?) African-American church. The audience was maybe 25% white or Hispanic. A pastor (I think from a different church) welcomed everyone and it was evident from his first sentence that I was a fish out of water.
"Good Evening" he said.
"Good Evening!" said the audience.
"Good Evening!" he said a bit louder.
"Good Evening!" said the audience even louder.

And from there, whether it was the Union worker, any of the four alderman present, or the primary community organizer working on this project, it was very much an audience participation event. Whether it was to shout out "MORE" (as in the name of the ordinance), or "Yessir", just a louder "uh-huh" than usual, it was a fascinating experience.

When the community organizer got to the podium, she repeated the pastor's "Good Evening" call and response, I realized that this is exactly what we do with staff and participants on Shabbat when we call out Shabbat Shalom. Still, we are SO not Baptist.

One particularly nice thing was the prayer that the pastor used to close the meeting. First, everyone stood and looked down. Had I not already been standing in the back this may have caught me by surprise. And since everyone else was looking down, I could look around and see what was going on. But the prayer itself was nice and I was waiting the whole time for him to say "in the name of Jesus....", but he didn't. I believe he said something about "our supreme father" or something like that, but nothing that would have excluded those of us who are "not Baptist".

All in all - pretty interesting. Oh, and all four alderman and the pastor went to Riverside high school here in Milwaukee. Now that's kind of strange.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Blog Rolling...

Ronnie set up a blog. It's called The Receptacle. I'm not 100% sure, but I am fairly certain that even though we both named our blogs for containers, that the differences may explain a lot about us and how we interact with each other and the world.

In any case, Ronnie helped me figure out how to add a Blog Roll. I never knew the name of it, but evidently that's what the list of "Places I Go" is actually called in the blogosphere (another word I learned from Ronnie).

It's hard to figure out what to put on a Blog Roll, or even just a list of links, you know? The New York Times is not worthy, but their daily sudoku is. And it's got to be just a little interesting that I included AND Merriam-Webster, right? Ok, maybe not. I'm sure I'll add to the list over time or maybe tomorrow.

It's possible that Ronnie created a monster....

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Weekend in Milwaukee

Wow! I was actually home for the last three nights, and unless I'm mistaken, I've got 9 more to go. I don't think I've been home 12 nights in a row for months. This means several things:

  • All of my meetings are on the phone. I'm not actually sure if that's good or bad.
  • I definitely get more done. There are far fewer interruptions than when I worked in the main office.

  • I can buy produce and know that it will be eaten. Of course that's assuming it doesn't get frozen in our strange and mysterious refrigerator.
  • I can eat chili or black bean and onion omelettes for breakfast.
  • I don't have to eat out. I don't usually mind it when I travel because at home, we don't eat out much at all. But after a while....

  • I am not subject to discombobulation or, more importantly, recombobulation.
  • I can use toiletries that are normal-sized and I don't have to put them back in a quart ziptop bag.
  • I can read the paper every day, on actual paper. And do the crossword puzzle and sudoku in pen and not online.
  • I can wear different clothes. Meaning that when I travel, I tend to bring the same three or four things with me because they travel well. At home, I can dress a bit more casually (no, not in pajamas!) and generally not worry about going out with brown pants, a blue shirt and green (or pink) crocs.
  • I have a choice of shoes. When I travel, maybe I have two pair with me, sometimes only one. It's gets boring.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Big City

I'm in NY this week. It's a really, really big place. Yesterday, I saw a lot of people walking down the street eating ice cream cones. Since this was over several blocks, I don't believe anyone was giving something away for free (otherwise I would have seen more people!). Still, it seemed sort of strange.

There are no escalators in the subway system. Given how often they seem to be out of service in DC, it probably makes sense that a system so large wouldn't want the hassle. The problem is that they don't have subway maps in convenient places. Like at the top of the stairs. So if you want to take the subway, you have to walk all the way down stairs to the station, and in my case, walk back up (with all of my stuff) upon finding out that I needed a different entrance. Grrr.

Because I've been in meetings, I've seen very little of the Republican National Convention. I didn't see any of the Democratic National Convention either. But I have seen short clips from both. Here'swhat I don't get - some of the delegates (from both parties) wear crazy things. Don't they realize they are going to be on national television? Do they think it makes them look them or their party look like they can lead this country? I think it's just confusing.

Because the television is on in the background now as I write, I am hearing more of Palin's speech than anything I've heard from anyone else. The one thing I can say - she's got good writers and can deliver a good line.